Constitution Day falls on 9 July each year . This is the day when Queen Victoria assented to the Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act, 1900, which brought to a successful conclusion the unusually peaceful and democratic process to unite the six self governing Australian colonies.
We Australians federated under the Crown; the Crown has been with us from the settlement in 1788, and has been intimately involved on every significant occasion in the life of the nation.
(ACM celebrated the day in 2010 by the launch of a superb collection of videos on the Australian Constitution made by Wing Commander Nick Hobson DFC AFC, "The Beginner's Guide to the Australian Constitution". This took place in Parliament House Sydney where a selection of the videos were shown to an appreciative audience.)
The Commonwealth of Australia Constitution Act provided that it should take effect on a date to be proclaimed by The Queen. This is was done on 17 September, 1900 at Balmoral, Her Majesty declaring that she was then satisfied that the people of Western Australia had indicated in a referendum that they too wished to join the Commonwealth of Australia.
The Queen then signified that the new Australian nation should come into being on the first day of the new year and the first day of the new century.
In the first video below, you may see the swearing in of the first Governor-General, Lord Hopetown, who then proceeds to swear in the first ministry under Prime Minister Edmund Barton. (This and other videos mentioned in this column are not the newly produced ones launched on Thursday.)
This significant event took place on 1 January 1901 in a pavillion in Centennial Park Sydney. The Governor-General,and The Queen's Ministers of State for the Commonwealth, as the Constitution describes them, used the same desk on which The Queen had assented to the Act.
The second video shows scenes of the Federation parade in Sydney.
…move to Canberra…
The first Parliament was opened by the Duke of York, later King George V in Melbourne on 9 May 1901. The Parliament then sat in Melbourne until 1927.
In the third video we see the next Duke of York, later King George VI, opening the new Parliament House in Canberra on 9 May 1927.
…Australia Acts, new Parliament House…
In the following video there are glimpses of the opening of the old Parliament House and of new Parliament House, opened by The Queen on 9 May 1988.
Two years before this, The Queen had been intimately involved in the finalisation of the terms of the Australia Acts, which successfully brought to an end the residuary powers the British Parliament retained in Australia. In that regard it should be noted that such powers were only retained on our insistence. This was because the State governments – of all parties – had trusted the British more than the Federal government.
The Queen proposed a compromise satisfactory to the States, but which considerably increased her duties as Queen of Australia.
…central to our nation : the Crown..
From the settlement in 1788 through self government freely given from the middle of the nineteenth century, through federation and independence freely granted by the British, the Australian Crown has been by our side, an integral part of the Australian nation.
Well may we Australian say: God Save The Queen!